An Australian first: The Nick Enright Songbook

On Sunday night, Sydney’s Eternity Playhouse was full to bursting for the launch of The Nick Enright Songbook, a record of one of Australia’s best lyricists, a tangible, teachable reminder of Enright’s impact on the Australian musical theatre canon.

The Songbook, which features 50 of the 250-odd songs Enright composed in his lifetime, is the first songbook compiled from the works of an Australian artist.

The Nick Enright Songbook is now available.
The Nick Enright Songbook is now available.

Enright was a man of the theatre; his collaborators at the launch shared stories of Enright as lyricist, composer, performer, go-fer, and assistant stage manager, but he is now generally described as an actor, director, teacher, and writer.

His plays include On the Wallaby, Daylight Saving, St James Infirmary, Mongrels, A Property of the Clan, The Quartet from Rigoletto, Blackrock, Good Works, Spurboard and A Man with Five Children, and with Justin Monjo he adapted Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet for the stage.

e has also written for film and television, including co-writing the screenplay for the Academy Award nominated Lorenzo’s Oil.

He wrote many musicals including The Venetian Twins, Summer Rain, Mary Bryant, and Miracle City.  He wrote the book for the Australian production of The Boy From Oz

Enright had a knack for capturing something sincere, but never affected, about the human experience. His songs were shaped lightly but not insubstantially, and his wit was sharp and his compassion for his characters was always very clear.

At the launch, songs were sung from The Venetian Twins, Miracle City, and Mary Bryant, among others, and the stories came thick and fast, with laughter and with tears. But everyone who knew Enright spoke of him with such love.

Enright, Eddie Perfect said, made everyone feel like Nick was “theirs”, and that strong sense of connection, and belonging, and love, was palpable in the Eternity Playhouse – a fitting place for the launch, with a front of house bar named after Nick, and whose home company, Darlinghurst Theatre Co, have committed to performing three Enright works over three years.

The Nick Enright Songbook is an invaluable resource for Australian and international music theatre, an exciting hint at a longer life for a man who more than made his mark on the industry. A trove of beautiful songs for performers and students and music lovers to discover, and re-discover, over and over again.

Also to come are a cast recording from Hayes Theatre’s successful revival of Enright and Max Lambert’s Miracle City, as well as libretto and songs. Enright lives.

The Nick Enright Songbook is available from all good bookstores and online at RRP $49.95.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and was the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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